Monday, March 5, 2018

Redemption: Accomplished And Applied

The title for this blog comes from a very helpful book written by the late Westminster Theological Seminary professor, John Murray. What the theologian did in those pages was to outline not only how God achieved redemption in Christ, but also how he continually brings about the presence and effects of that redemption to his elect.

The title is also a very accurate label for the second half of the Revelation 4-5 throne room vision (5:1-14). In these fourteen verses we are made aware of the second and third ways we are encouraged by God’s sweet sovereignty in this current age.

2 & 3. God Sovereignly Accomplished Salvation Through The Lamb (Jesus Christ), And He is Sovereignty Applying That Salvation Work To The World.

Both of these encouragements to the church are intertwined throughout this part of the vision John received. Let’s discover the ways this is so.

a. God The Father Is Envisioned On His Throne In The Heavenly Throne Room And As Sovereignly In Control Of The Accomplishment And Application Of Salvation And Judgment. 1
Here we read: “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” This vision has roots in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 29:11 the vision of what is happening in Judah and the subsequent judgment God will bring upon them is “like the words of a book that is sealed.” Similarly, in Daniel 12:4, 9, Daniel’s visions of the end-times events in the far future are sealed up in a book. It also is not insignificant that in one of the most central OT passages that stands behind the visions of Revelation (Daniel 7) that God is envisioned sitting in judgment on his throne “and the books were opened.”

What we glean from these Old Testament passages is that what is in view here in the book or scroll is God’s plan for the achievement and outworking of both salvation and judgment in history. We have seen in chapter four that God is sovereign over all and that when he plans something it is as certain as if it had already happened. Yet, now we see this applied particularly to the salvation of the church and to judgment upon those who oppose God and treat the church unjustly, even persecuting them. This last point will be seen more clearly as we read in chapter six of the unsealing of the scroll. These truths are powerful for churches being persecuted. After all, God will preserve, protect, and save them in the ultimate sense. They also are powerful for churches on the brink of compromise. Such congregations will face the judgment of God unless they repent.

The fact that the scroll is sealed means its God-decreed events have not come to fruition yet.

b. The Only One Worthy To Unseal The Book And Bring About All That Is Ordained In It: The Hero. 2-5
In a very dramatic fashion that emphasizes there is only one who can accomplish and secure the outworking of what God has decreed for this age in relation to salvation and judgment, we first read: “And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.” The way this is worded, with the question asked by a mighty angel, the silence in all heaven and earth, and then John’s passionate response, all are designed to lead the reader to see there is no hope for salvation and judgement in all the world, except as found in only one.  That one is revealed in verse five.

In 5:5 we read: “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’” There is no need for John to be distraught and hopeless. The fourfold reason is found in the hero introduced here.

To begin, he is referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” This comes from Genesis 49:8-10, where Jacob was blessing his sons toward the end of his life and where we read in his blessing of Judah: “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's sons shall bow down before you. 9Judah is a lion's cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? 10

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Not only is Judah referred to here as a lion, but it is affirmed that he, somehow through his descendants, will have an everlasting and world-wide kingdom that includes the peoples or nations submitting to him. Especially in light of later Old Testament prophecies that speak of a descendant of David who will have an everlasting kingdom (Jer. 33:14-22; Ezek. 34:23), this has traditionally been seen as a prophecy about the coming Messiah (God’s anointed king who will bring his kingdom and saving blessings to his people). The one seen is this Messiah (the Christ).

Second, he is referred to as “the root of David.” This is taken from Isaiah 11, where the future Messiah, the one who will bring God’s worldwide kingdom and saving blessings, is referred to as “the root of Jesse” (11:10 [Jesse was David’s father]). This is a reiteration that the one seen is the Messiah, the Christ, who brings the kingdom of God. In other words, he is able to accomplish and work out, to apply what God has decreed about salvation and judgment.

Third, it is said of this one that he “has conquered.” In other words, there is a way in which he has been victorious, he has defeated something and/or someone. It is also likely that in context what is intended is not only that the accomplishment and application of salvation and redemption are tied to his conquering or overcoming, but that God’s people are able to conquer or overcome because this one has (see the same verb used in promises to overcoming saints: 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). In fact, Rev. 3:21 draws this direct connection between the conquering of Jesus and that of his followers: “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

Fourth and finally, we uncover the outcome, purpose, or the result of his having conquered: “so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” It is through this one John envisions, that what God has decreed and that which will enable the church to conquer will come to fruition.

Yet, the reader has been held in suspense. Who is this hero?  Verse six leaves no doubt as to the identity.

c. The Identity Of The Hero And What He Did Behind The Accomplishment And Outworking Of God’s Ordained Salvation And Judgment. 6
Here is what John saw, as recorded in verse six: “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”

It is clear from elsewhere in Revelation that this is none other than Jesus Christ. We know this, to begin with, because in 1:5, 18 it has already been affirmed that he died a substitutionary atoning death and was raised from the dead to free his people, save them, and give them life, and later in Revelation this death is attributed to the Lamb (7:14; 12:11). Additionally, John recorded Jesus as affirming he had conquered and so his people can (3:21).  But more than this, it is said of the “Lamb” elsewhere in Revelation: That he is to be praised as is God on the throne, thus strongly implying he is God and so the second person of the one true and living God (Rev. 5:12-13); he exercises judging wrath, which is a role of God (6:16); he is viewed as being married to the bride, the people of God (19:7) which, in light of its Old Testament background (e.g. Is. 62:1-5) also means he is divine; the twelve apostles belonged to him, which clearly equates him with Jesus Christ (21:14); and he is the light of glory of the new Jerusalem, along with God the Father on the throne (21:22, 23, 27; 22:1); and finally, according to precise language, he is equal with the Father, but also a distinct person (22:3). All of this, beyond doubt, identifies him as Jesus Christ.

Beyond the Lamb’s identity, however, we see great significance in how he is described here in verse six. He is “standing, as though it had been slain:” Here, he is viewed as fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (sp. 53:4-6) as the slain lamb, the one to die in the place of God’s people. That he has been slain in the past and his death brings continual results (the sense of the wording) speaks of the substitutionary atoning death of Jesus on the cross. Yet, the fact he is standing implies he has been raised and is no longer dead (see Rev. 1:18). We see here the enemy he has conquered that saints might conquer—sin and death. Later in Revelation it will be made clear he has also conquered the ultimate enemy, Satan (12:7-12, esp. v. 11).

It is also said of him that he is standing “with seven horns.” Horns in Scripture are symbolic of power, just as they tend to emphasize the power of an animal or beast, as we see in Rev. 13:1, 11; 17:3 (cf. also Dan. 7:7ff.).  Here is the slain, risen, conquering, divine Lamb, Son of Man, and Lion of Judah, who has great power. He has wielded this power and continues to wield it in behalf of his people, to save them!  This is a glorious assurance for the church in the face of hostility.

He also is standing “with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” We have already seen “the seven spirits of God” referred to in 1:4 and in 4:5—a reference to the Holy Spirit who empowers the people of God for our mission. Here, however, what is emphasized in the “seven eyes” most likely is the awareness on the part of the Spirit (and so of the Father). However, the Spirit here is directly associated with the Lamb. The reason most likely is that through the work of Jesus Christ in behalf of the church, the Spirit is present in the church applying the person, power, presence, and work of Christ. Additionally, with this comes infallible awareness of what the church needs for protection, preservation, and to be propelled away from sin and idolatry to faithfulness before God (note in the seven messages to the churches in chapters 2-3 the emphasis on Jesus knowing where they are and what they need).

d. The Heroic Lamb Begins To Unfold The Divinely-Decreed Salvation And Judgment In God’s Book. 7-8
Here John records what he saw as follows: “And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

Elsewhere in Revelation (see chapter 12) the start of salvation and judgment is tied to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The following context here makes clear that is the point of victory, the point of accomplishment.

Something of interest is that the twenty-four elders have golden bowls full of incense that symbolize the prayers of the saints. The significance of this, as seen in Rev. 8:1-5 (as part of the seventh seal that gives way to the seven trumpets), is that God works to accomplish redemption and to carry out its entailments (salvation of his people and judgment on opposition) in response to the prayers of his followers. So, even though God has determined what he will accomplish, he has also decreed the means to the end, which includes prayer. This shows the significance of prayer!

e. In Response To The Heroic Lamb’s Actions, Two Hymns Of Praise Are Offered, Which Clarify Even Further What The Lamb Has Done To Accomplish And Apply Salvation. 9-14
Regarding the first hymn (9-10) we read: “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’”

Here we find out what Jesus Christ, the heroic Lamb, has done to accomplish and apply salvation.

Next, we read of a second hymn (11-14): “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ 14 And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

Here we discover all the heavenly beings John sees around the throne worshiping the slain and risen Lamb. Because he is the Savior and the one who demonstrates all who ignore him deserve judgment, he is worthy of all that men can give to him (power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing). In other words, all that God has gifted us with, we should give to the Savior to magnify him and to be used in the continual application and outworking of redemption.

The idea is similar to what we see in Romans 12:1 (NLT): “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”

The implication for readers of Revelation 5 is that we too should give all we have in worship and service to Christ.

Joyfully Worshiping And Serving The Lamb With You,


No comments:

Post a Comment